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Director of Labour Market Enforcement to crackdown on workplace exploitation

The Director of Labour Market Enforcement has warned rogue employers he would be consulting on how to make full use of powers to jail the worst offenders.

Sir David Metcalf was appointed in January 2017 to oversee a government crackdown on exploitation in the workplace by setting the strategic priorities for the government’s three enforcement agencies: HMRC’s National Minimum Wage (NMW) enforcement team, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), and the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate (EAS).

Publishing his introductory report, Metcalf said he would work with the government’s enforcement bodies to:

  • Better tackle illegal practices by implementing labour market enforcement undertakings and orders, which came into force in November 2016 and carry a maximum two-year prison sentence for serious or repeat offences
  • Identify how best to ensure large employers’ supply chains do not breach labour market laws, particularly in the fashion, construction and cleaning sectors
  • Review the effectiveness of current labour market enforcement efforts

Over the coming months Metcalf will consult business and worker representatives, industry bodies and enforcement action groups ahead of publishing his first full labour market enforcement strategy later this year.

Metcalf said, “Tackling labour market abuses is an important priority for the government and I am encouraged it has committed record funds to cracking down on exploitation.

“Over the coming months I will be working with government enforcement agencies and industry bodies to better identify and punish the most serious and repeat offenders taking advantage of vulnerable workers and honest businesses.”

The report is published alongside this year’s National Minimum and Living Wage enforcement statistics. The figures show in 2016/17 HMRC’s enforcement teams identified a record £10.9m in back pay for 98,150 of the UK’s lowest paid workers – a 69% increase on those helped last year.

Businesses who failed to pay workers at least the legal minimum wage were also fined £3.9m, with employers in hospitality and retail sectors among the most prolific offenders.

Business minister Margot James added, “This government is firmly on the side of hard-working people and we are determined to stamp out any workplace exploitation, from minimum wage abuses to modern slavery.

“While the majority of employers create a fair and safe environment for their workers, there are a small minority of rogue employers who break the law and we will use all enforcement measures at our disposal to crack down on labour market abuses.”

Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Sarah Newton commented, “I welcome the director’s introductory report which recognises the importance of a collaborative approach across enforcement agencies.

“I am pleased that we have extended the reach and budget of the GLAA as it will enable them to do even more, using new powers to search premises, seize evidence, and arrest those who mistreat workers.”

“The new powers are working, multiple arrests have already been made, including for modern slavery offences, and I am confident that GLAA officers will continue to disrupt the unscrupulous criminals who exploit the most vulnerable.”

The report comes after Matthew Taylor published his independent review into modern employment practices to achieve “good quality work for all”. The government will study this review carefully over the summer and respond in detail later in the year.

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